Don Dorminy explains his proposal to research the feasibility of whether Albany could be Georgia’s first user-fee international port-of-entry airport to the Albany Dougherty Aviation Commission Monday.
ALBANY -- The Albany Dougherty Aviation Commission has approved a request from a Tifton man who has submitted a proposal seeking to determine the feasibility of the Soutwest Georgia Regional Airport in Albany becoming an international port-of-entry user-fee airport for both cargo and commercial air travel.
Don Dorminy told aviation commissioners Monday that Georgia presently has no small- to mid-sized port-of-entry airports where incoming and outgoing international cargo flights and international charter flights could operate and that Albany, with its proximity to the Caribbean and Central America, could benefit from the designation.
According to the U.S. Customs Department and Border Patrol, user-fee ports-of-entry airports pay a fee to the federal government for customs and border patrol services.
Dorminy said the ability to host international air cargo and charter services could be a boon to the local agriculture community, where market availability is often limited to geographic distance.
Specifically, Dorminy talked about how retail giants like Wal-Mart and Publix use vegetables that are often brought in from Central and South America via airports in South Florida and then trucked up hundreds of miles into southern Georgia.
"Why don't we get into the 21st century and be pro-active about the future of this airport and of the region?" Dorminy said. "With our distribution network, why can't we fly these products into here, or more importantly, allow our farmers to participate in a global market?"
Dorminy pointed to airports in Florida that he said were comparable in size to Albany's that have port-of-entry status. Among the cities he mentioned were Daytona, St. Augustine and Melbourne.
Commission member Charles Gillespie said further information would be helpful.
"Certainly in Southwest Georgia this is unheard of, but with all the agriculture in Southwest Georgia, I could see this being an economic plus not only for Albany but this part of the state," he said.
Dorminy's proposal was for $5,000 plus travel expenses to go to Daytona and St. Augustine to gather more information about the programs there and report back to the Aviation Commission with a recommendation for whether to apply to the federal government or not.
City Manager James Taylor, who attended Monday's meeting, was asked by the commission what role the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission had been playing with this topic.
"I know some members are aware but it hasn't been formally presented to them," Taylor said. "We need more information such as cost and the return on the investment."
Commissioner Keith Fletcher said he didn't understand why the airport alone had to bear the burden of paying Dorminy's proposed $5,000 fee plus travel expenses to research the feasibility of the project.
"It seems like we're laying this all on the airport when the entire community would benefit if there is anything to it," Fletcher said.
After discussion, the commission voted 4-1-1 to approve the request with Commissioner Sanford Hilsman voting against and Fletcher abstaining from voting.